Joe Bataan @ Cargo

Live At Cargo, London 11th June 2009

Joe Bataan – The KING of Latin Soul – Live At Cargo, London

So finally, after THIRTY years, the self confessed ‘Ordinary Guy’ and Latin Soul legend, Mr Joe Bataan performed his FIRST ever gig on a UK stage. Thanks to the Red Bull Music Academy, Karen P’s broadcasting and Stone Throw’s James Pants, the 11th June 2009 became a historic and indelible evening for all those in attendance, including UK Vibe’s The Dood.

The anticipation was heightened when the band took the stage, minus their Latin Guru. Then enter stage right – a red peaked cap came into view – the originator of New York Latin Soul, Joe Bataan had arrived in London, EC2! He worked his way along the stage front handing out signed photos to his adoring fans.

Then Mr B addressed his UK audience, ‘Ok, before I start, I gotta say something and then we’ll get on with the party. I travelled all the way from New York, and it took me twenty – nine years! The first time I came to London, I met this young lady, and we were at a disco….She said, ‘Do you wanna dance?’ ‘I said sweetheart, I never dance! She said, ‘Well you better start learning. So I went home with a lesson like that and here I am twenty –nine years later and I’m ready to party – with you!!

‘So let me tell you my story. Most artists come and they play for you, they look nice, they sound good and they go home and collect their money – not Joe Bataan, alright! I’m gonna tell you my story, my life, I’m gonna tell you what I’ve been doing for the last twenty – nine years! And I’m gonna include you in my prayers, which is most important.’

‘You see because when I tell you that story, then you’ll know the tragic and the good parts of Joe Bataan’s life. So, it’s not an accident that Joe Bataan is here in London tonight, this was all planned. And it took twenty – nine years to make history and this is what were gonna give you today!’ Joe exclaimed.

James Pants, who insisted on Joe Bataan being the main attraction for this Red Bull event, duly took up his position, cow bell in hand as he promised. The scene was now set for an enthralling evening of Latin Soul/funk flavours – Joe Bataan style.

After catching the band(Grupo X) off guard by kicking off with a smooth soulful ballad intro taster, Joe changed up suddenly and proclaimed excitedly, ‘And so now, without modulation I’m gonna change the key and bring you the first song I did in 1966, and it goes like this….!!!’

Then BAM! The percussionist and pianist got mad busy, as did the brass section and backing vocalist (Joe’s wife Yvonne), as the familiar vibes of ‘Gypsy Woman’ filled the intimate Cargo venue. The party had most definitely started now. Half through the tune, Mr. New York requested the band bring it down real low and then take it gradually higher.

Sub-consciously, the Bataan faithful were drawn trance-like into Joe’s world as he got them to chant repeatedly, ‘We don’t need no music, all we need is rhythm!’ The brass section and timbales exploded once again for a final flourish. The cheers were deafening. Just one track in and we were already thinking, what great music the UK had been deprived of for the past thirty years.

With barely a breather, Joe introduced the next foot shuffler, ‘The next song, Mick Jagger took something from it and recorded the ‘Devil’s Advocate.’ I don’t know if that’s true, but here’s my rendition of ‘Johnny’.’ The rich soulful timbre of Joe’s voice was suited so well to the Latino rhythms.

On a roll now, the band smoothly segued into an immensely catchy, frenetic instrumental of ‘Puerto Rico Me Liama’. The supremely talented Grupo X, led by Jonny Enright got their time to shine, impressing Mr Bataan in the process. As did Joe’s good friend of forty years and legendary Timbales player/percussionist, Peter ‘Chukie’ Quintero.

The break from lyrics gave Joe and his wife a prime opportunity to lead a Conga train from the stage, out into their welcoming and adoring fans. They snaked rhythmically across the length of the floor and then back to base. Awesome! There was to be no come down from this high just yet!

The classic tunes kept on coming as Joe hollered, ‘Back in 1979 there was a new thing coming out! Joe Bataan was right there. When I brought it to people they would say, ‘Hey Joe, you crazy, what the hell is that?’ I’d say, ‘This is something new!’ They’d say, ‘Well, so you don’t sing anymore?’ I’d say, ‘Yeah, but this is something new.’ They’d say, ‘Get outta here with that junk man, we’ll see you later!’

So instead of being the first, I became the third, and we had one of the top records in the world at that time. And it was one of the first rap songs called, ‘Rap-O-Clap-O!’ The infectious and insistent bass line kicked in as all present clapped their hands to the beat as instructed by Uncle Joe.

Three quarters into this delicious jazzy, sax laden version, Joe fleshed the story out further. ‘The story is, they didn’t let that play in London – it went on to be the number one hit in France, Holland, Spain and all over the world. Well, now Joe Bataan is back to claim his spot!’ The Cargo massive whooped their approval as the King of Latin Showmanship launched into the next verse.

In a set with no fillers, the 1968 hit ‘Riot’ was followed enthusiastically by the trumpeted intro to an even bigger smash, ‘Subway Joe.’- Everybody joining in with the sing-a-long chorus, Hey! Hey! Hey! Subway Joe!

After a lengthy but cathartic explanation of how he found a new spirituality following a near death experience, Joe Bataan treated the respectful crowd to an emotive version of ‘My Prayer.’ Sublime!

His adopted sound track to his life had the following introduction. ‘The next song is a song I happened to record ten times! A lot of people don’t know the story, but I recorded it in Spanish, English, I’ve done it slow, I’ve done ‘Bossa Nova’ I’ve done ‘Cha Cha’. And they told me it became popular here in the UK. And here’s my rendition of ‘Ordinary Guy.’ That was the bands cue to break into a languid and laid back ‘Bossa Nova’ version of the same.

With the evening drawing to a close, and before thrilling the audience with his unique version of Gil Scott-Heron’s ‘The Bottle’, Mr Bataan thanked them and introduced those supporting him. ‘Thank you so much, it’s been a pleasure….To my left, straight from New York, my wife Yvonne. And of course to my left we have James Pants.’ He then proceeded to name check the members of Grupo X and stalwart friend Peter ‘Chuckie’ Quintero, before adding, ‘…Last but not least my name is Joe and I’m the ‘Ordinary Guy!’

Joe Bataan’s first performance before a UK audience was rounded off with an uplifting, jaunty expression of Latino passion, Afro-Filipino style via ‘Do the Bush/Special Girl. A grateful Joe confessed, ‘It’s been a pleasure. You let Joe Bataan come back to your shores and I love ya!’

All I can say is on behalf of ‘Good Music’ lovers around the world and especially those present for his seminal and memorable show in the UK – Mr Bataan, It’s been a pleasure to indulge in ‘The Live Latin Soul/Funk Experience’ first hand. Please! Please! Please! Don’t keep us waiting another twenty-nine to thirty years before you grace these shores again. One love!

Remember that ‘Nothing is Promised’ always love and appreciate those around you. You are blessed. Thank the Lord each and every day. – Joe Bataan/Your Ordinary Guy

Michael ‘The Dood’ Edwards

NB Big thanks to Georgia at Red Bull Music & Karen P’s broadcasting for arranging gig invite and subs sequent Joe Bataan interview. Respect!

The Line Up:

Joe Bataan: (lead vocal & keyboards)
Yvonne Nitollano: (background vocals)
Peter ‘Chuckie’ Quintero: (timbales, percussion)
James Pants: (cow-bell, percussion, background vocals)

Grupo X:
Jonny Enright: (band leader & trombone, background vocals)
Finn Peters: (alto sax, flute)
Grant Windsor: (piano)
Jimmy Le Messurier: drums
Leon Stenning: guitar
Elpadio Casedo: bass
Simon Finch: trumpet
Pete Eckford: congas/bongos

Essential Joe Bataan London gig link:

Essential website:

Essential Joe Bataan You Tube:

Essential Grupo X websites:
(The backing band of choice for visiting Latin musicians)